For years, these thoughts would consistently dominate my thinking:
“It’s going to be a tough day today” or “I can’t wait for this day to be over” or worse yet, at night I would often think “Ugh, tomorrow is just going be such a shitty day because I have to X, Y, Z.” And my typical thought process on Mondays was the worst, the dreaded, “I can’t wait till Friday!”
Not anymore thank goodness.
One particular book helped me a great deal to understand the absolute crime that my thought process was committing:
Joan Didion’s Year of Magical Thinking. An extraordinary book. Truly one of the most moving I have ever read. The way she writes, her choice of words, her description of the events surrounding one tragic and painful year in her life are mesmerizing.
“Life changes in the instant. The ordinary instant.”
That’s the basic premise of the book. How in one second, everything you know, everything you depend on to be there, the people you love, could disappear.
More in her own words…
“A single person is missing for you, and the whole world is empty.”
“Grief turns out to be a place none of us know until we reach it. We anticipate (we know) that someone close to us could die, but we do not look beyond the few days or weeks that immediately follow such an imagined death. We misconstrue the nature of even those few days or weeks. We might expect if the death is sudden to feel shock. We do not expect this shock to be obliterative, dislocating to both body and mind. We might expect that we will be prostrate, inconsolable, crazy with loss. We do not expect to be literally crazy, cool customers who believe their husband is about to return and need his shoes.”
“We are imperfect mortal beings, aware of that mortality even as we push it away, failed by our very complication, so wired that when we mourn our losses we also mourn, for better or for worse, ourselves. As we were. As we are no longer. As we will one day not be at all.”
But this blog isn’t about death. It’s about life.
Steve Jobs gave us a great gift. Not his phones or computers. Those things are merely objects that distract us from addressing the real meaning and purpose of our own lives. They provide us with a temporary, fleeting distraction and enable us too often to avoid human, intimate contact. But that’s a ramble for another day.
His famous speech at the Stanford graduation ceremony is one that I have watched countless times. At the end, he talks about death being the greatest single invention of life. Because no one escapes it. And with that knowledge we should really embrace each day as a gift because we know how this all ends.
A neighbor of mine was in a really bad bike accident recently. He will hopefully be ok but it really shook people hard who learned of this accident. He was out for a nice ride on a beautiful day and something happened and he crashed. Face first. Really really difficult to think about it and I can’t imagine what his family is going through.
“Life changes in the instant.”
After reading Joan’s book, thinking about the Job’s speech and my neighbor, it all hit me at once.
Stop taking any day for granted.
Everyday you wake up is a gift.
No more complaining about a bad night’s sleep. Stop looking past the day in front of you. Appreciate all of the moments of every single day. Notice people’s faces more. Pay attention to your surroundings. See the beauty that unfolds in front of you every minute of the day. Notice everyone you see and make eye contact with them and simply say “hello” and smile. Tell the people you love how you feel.
Think about every moment as your last.
If that’s the last thing you see, if that’s the last person you see, what do you want that experience to be like?
Sure, sounds a little hokey. And maybe it’s what happens when you pass the 50-year-old mark:)
But when thoughts come into my brain that speak of anything but the moment in front of me, I refocus on this moment, at this time and this opportunity and see it all as such a gift.
My own ritual now is that to give thanks first thing every morning as soon as I wake up and set my intentions to have a great day. And I do the same every night about the next day. Really works like magic for me to gain thankfulness and appreciation on a daily basis.
There is a line in this Tim McGraw song that always sort of haunted me about his father getting told he is dying and now that his son has this knowledge that life can change in an instant. And he asks himself in the song, “What did you do with it?” “What will you do with it?” “What did I do with it?” (Hits me every time!)
It’s about having the knowledge you’re going to die one day — and you don’t know if that’ll be today, in a year or 50 years. Pretty good way to live each day and to ask yourself the same questions.
And for me, every morning when I wake up, it’s a great day.